A Comprehensive List Of The Problems With 60 Minutes' Benghazi Segment
Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY & MATT GERTZ
On October 27, CBS' 60 Minutes aired a segment anchored by correspondent Lara Logan and featuring the results of her year-long investigation into the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Right-wing media outlets and conservative politicians promptly seized on the story, claiming it validated their extensive effort to turn the attacks into a political scandal for President Obama and Hillary Clinton.
12 days later, the network pulled the report and apologized to viewers, with the network acknowledging that it had committed its biggest failure since the 2004 controversy surrounding a 60 Minutes story on President Bush's Air National Guard service.
After facing withering criticism for issuing an apology on 60 Minutes that failed to detail what the network had done wrong or any investigation CBS would undertake to explain how its blunder had occurred, CBS announced on November 14 that it had begun an ongoing "journalistic review" of the segment. But the network declined to detail who is performing that review or whether its results will be made public.
Much of the criticism has revolved around the network's handling of its interview with the former British security contractor Dylan Davies, identified by CBS as a "witness" to the attacks. But numerous flaws in the report have been identified since the segment aired.
Here are all of those flaws.
1. The Fraudulent Benghazi "Witness"
The 60 Minutes segment featured Davies, who appeared on the show under the pseudonym "Morgan Jones." Logan and Davies related how the security contractor had scaled a 12 foot wall on the side of the diplomatic compound the night of the attack and dispatching a terrorist with his rifle butt. He also told viewers about how he had supposedly seen Ambassador Chris Stevens' dead body in a local hospital.
But four days later, The Washington Post reported that an incident report filed by Davies' employer, Blue Mountain, had said that the security contractor "could not get anywhere near" the compound the night of the attack, and that he found out about Ambassador Stevens' death not by finding him in a local hospital, but from a Libyan colleague.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Davies claimed that he had not written the incident report and that he had lied to his boss to cover up the fact that he had disobeyed orders. He said that he had also discussed the events of the attack with the FBI and that that account matched the one he had given to CBS and would vindicate him. Logan stood by Davies' claims, saying that she had known all along that Davies had told a different story to his bosses and that she believed the story he had told her was the truth.
On November 7, The New York Times reported that the account Davies gave the FBI matched the story he told his boss, not the one he told CBS. The network retracted their report, with Logan apologizing on-air, saying CBS was "wrong to put him on-air."
2. The Ethical Conflict With The "Witness'" Book
The initial 60 Minutes segment referenced and aired an image of the cover of Davies' book, The Embassy House: The Explosive Eyewitness Account of the Libyan Embassy Siege by the Soldier Who Was There. But Logan failed to disclose that the book was published by Threshold Editions, an imprint of the CBS division Simon & Schuster.
On November 5, The New York Times reported that Logan and CBS News were standing by the network's Benghazi reporting. But Logan and Fager both said that the network erred by failing to acknowledge the financial connection it shared with Davies. From the Times:
CBS said that Jeffrey Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of "60 Minutes," said on Tuesday that he regretted not making the connection between Mr. Davies and CBS public.
Ms. Logan said, "Honestly, it never factored into the story. It was a mistake; we should have done it, precisely because there's nothing to hide. It was an oversight."
CBS mentioned the mistake during its November 8 apology on CBS This Morning, when anchor Jeff Glor reported that "60 [Minutes] has already acknowledged it was a mistake not to disclose that the book was being published by Simon & Schuster, which is a CBS company." But the network has yet to mention their "oversight" on 60 Minutes itself.
3. The Long-Answered "Lingering Question"
During the segment, Logan echoed long-running conservative claims that more military aid should have been sent to help the Americans under attack in Benghazi when she said that "the lingering question is why no larger military response ever crossed the border into Libya."
In fact, shortly after the attack began, a Marine anti-terrorist team in Spain and special operations teams in Croatia and the United States were ordered to deploy. But the Marines arrived in Tripoli, Libya, roughly 11 hours after the last Americans had been successfully evacuated from Benghazi, while the special operations teams reached a staging base in Italy at around that same time.
Several senior military experts have explained that help was sent, but due to logistical issues, none arrived until hours after the attack concluded. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that the idea that military assets should have been able to get to Benghazi during the attack was based on a "sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities."
4. The CIA's "Orders To Wait"
During the segment, Logan claimed that a response team from the CIA annex facility that wanted to go to the aid of Americans at the main compound received "orders to wait." But months ago, that claim was denied by the CIA and debunked by the State Department's independent review of the assault -- facts that went unmentioned during the CBS segment.
When the claim was originally reported by Fox News in October 2012, CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood flatly denied the claim:
"We can say with confidence that the Agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi," she said. "Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. In fact, it is important to remember how many lives were saved by courageous Americans who put their own safety at risk that night-and that some of those selfless Americans gave their lives in the effort to rescue their comrades."
In December, the Assessment Review Board, an independent panel assembled by the State Department to investigate the attack, also knocked down the claim, finding (emphasis added):
The departure of the Annex team was not delayed by orders from superiors; the team leader decided on his own to depart the Annex compound once it was apparent, despite a brief delay to permit their continuing efforts, that rapid support from local security elements was not forthcoming.
5. Al Qaeda's Role In The Attack
At several points during Logan's report, the perpetrators of the Benghazi attack were identified solely as Al Qaeda fighters. "It's now well-established," Logan said at one point, "that the Americans were attacked by al Qaeda in a well-planned assault." McClatchy Middle East bureau chief Nancy Youssef reported on November 13 that 60 Minutes' reporting "made no mention of Ansar al Shariah, the Islamic extremist group that controls and provides much of the security in restive Benghazi and that has long been suspected in the attack."
According to McClatchy, the degree to which Al Qaeda participated in the attack has not yet been established:
While the two organizations have worked together in Libya, experts said they have different aims -- al Qaida has global objectives while Ansar al Shariah is focused on turning Libya into an Islamic state.
It is an important distinction, experts on those groups said. Additionally, al Qaida's role, if any, in the attack has not been determined, and Logan's narration offered no source for her repeated assertion that it had been.
6. Al Qaeda At The Hospital
In addition to placing Al Qaeda at the scene of the attack, Logan claimed that the hospital in Benghazi where Ambassador Stevens' body was recovered "was under the control of al Qaeda terrorists." Logan did not offer a source this assertion, and as McClatchy's Youssef wrote, it doesn't appear to be accurate -- the hospital was guarded by Ansar al Shariah, not under the control of Al Qaeda:
On the night of the attack, the medical center, whose compound includes several buildings in addition to the relatively modern, multi-story hospital itself, was being guarded by Ansar al Shariah. Libyan residents McClatchy spoke with said the group's guards never stopped patients from entering but were there primarily to protect the nurses and doctors inside.
The Libyan Herald, an English-language news outlet, reported just three days before the diplomatic compound was attacked that the Libyan health minister and the French ambassador to Libya, Antoine Sivan, had visited the facility to break ground on an expansion. Had the hospital been under al Qaida control, it is unlikely doctors could have spent nearly an hour trying save Stevens' life or that the health minister of the government it seeks to oust would have been allowed to enter the hospital.
7. The Suspected Attackers
Logan's report identified three men with ties to Al Qaeda as chief suspects in the Benghazi attack: Abu Anas al-Libi, Sufian bin Qumu, and Faraj al-Chalabi. According to Youssef, however, while the three men "are long suspected of having been involved ... there is no evidence of their specific roles in the attack." Logan did not identify her sources when discussing the suspects.
Youssef reported that "a U.S. law enforcement source involved in the Benghazi probe" told her that "al-Libi is not under investigation for the Benghazi attacks." As for Qumu, "no evidence has emerged of his role in Benghazi," Youssef wrote, "other than a Fox News report last month that he was on the ground in Benghazi the night of the attack." Al-Chalabi was detained by Libyan authorities, according to Youssef, but he was released in June and "U.S. officials at the time said there was not enough evidence to hold him for the Benghazi attack."
"If there is new evidence that any of the men were involved," Youssef wrote, "the segment did not detail what it was or how Logan knew about it."